The breezy air was just about perfect as I rode down the wide bike path along the strip of neatly groomed grass in20170414_162203.jpg the neighbourhood of Newbury Park. I breathed in the California air, scented with spring blooms and couldn’t stop the stream of thoughts going through my head …’ These hills are so beautiful…this weather is perfect…how can this place be so nice…it’s SO beautiful!’
Sprawling hills wearing a coat of mottled spring green. White stucco houses, with arched doorways and turret entrances tucked safely into their comforting folds.

A peaceful shopping plaza, waterfall bubbling down into a frog pond.

I spotted the tiled sign with the scrolled letters ‘Encanto’ , spanish for ‘Charm’, and knew that was the sign I was almost at my temporary home.

Charming is what this neighbourhood is. Picture perfect. The kind that almost feels too good to be true.

20170430_170516So different from the hot dusty hills of Manchay I left behind in Lima Peru. So different from the gloomy grey days I left behind in Ottawa as spring struggled to make her arrival.

Earlier today I opened my inbox to a picture from home of the park just a few blocks from home.  The spring snow melt had overflowed the Rideau river…and it was clear that the park and the soccer field had fought a losing battle with the river. The bare trees looked dark and leafless…waiting…waiting…for a new spring coat.

And for the few weeks I was home in between Lima sum20170410_155910mer heat…and California spring…I heard it…and felt it in the air around me…the LONGING FOR SPRING. For the snow to melt, for the ground to soften, for the sun to shine! The gardeners waiting to get their hands in the soft earth, kids waiting to shed their jackets, students waiting for their daily dose of Vitamin D, so many waiting for relief from winter blues.

20170426_164337Sometimes I forget HOW LONG spring takes to come. And isn’t it just easier to spend 5 hours in the air and find spring color and sunshine somewhere else?  Just
avoid the flooded paths, and gloomy days…the in between?

Maybe, yes.  My heart IS grateful for this moment, for taking in this season of ‘Instant Spring’.

But I also have felt the exhilaration as the first spreading rays of sun begin to win the battle over the winter chill in Ottawa. When the puddles begin to shrink, and the robins bravely touch down, and the birds let out their tentative song. When the first plucky crocus pushes it’s splash of  yellow sunshine up through the snow like it’s joining ranks with the battle against the cold. When the bikes come out and the path is dry enough for the first chilly ride. When rain boots replace wool liners, fingers come out of their mittened hiding, and hats can be tucked away in the box marked ‘Winter Wear’.

When the first leaves courageously push their way onto the tip of the barest of branches, and the blossoms join not far behind. When the musty smell of earth is traded for apple 575208_10150943341836055_595982229_nblossom and lilac perfume, and my students are shedding their layers and shrieking with delight at a dandelion discovery.

And I want to remember that feeling in the seasons…the areas of life where I am not given ‘Instant Spring.’  When I’m not taken 30,000 feet above the flooded parks and gloomy skies and transported to sunny, charming, California hills. When I’m waiting…waiting….like those bare tree branches.

(although they tell me the green is short lived around here….the hills are quickly turning bare and brown…and the waiting will begin for the morning mist or hint of rain …)

I want to remember that sometimes the waiting…the longing….Makes the bird song louder, the lilac perfume sweeter, and the kiss of sun bring even more life. The JOY richer. And if I need a reminder to keep hanging on when the wait stretches ahead….there is a Book that reminds me in Genesis 8:22 that ‘While the earth remains, Seedtime…shall not cease.”…spring WILL come.  This Book also reminds me that fear and doubt will fight a losing battle when the rays of Hope shine in…

“Our soul waits for the LORD; 

He is our Help and our Shield…

our heart is glad in Him…” 

“… As surely as the sun rises, He will appear;

He will come to us … like the spring rains

that water the earth.”

Psalm 33:20 — Hosea 6:3

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.  ~ Hal Borland


Even in the Valley

It’s May 14th, almost 6 months since I bumped along in the back seat of this van. These days I’ve been riding along the smooth roads of Southern California. But this week, I have needed to be reminded again…that even in the Valleys, He is with us. 

We were sitting in the back seat of the full van, bumping over the roads from Ica back to Lima. My heart was in my throat more times than I could count, passing cars coming straight for us and nearly missing a trucks bumper. We had one close call that morning 20161218_140641that left my adrenaline racing…but I consoled myself with the fact that drivers here seem to have a sixth sense on the roads and a hairs breadth is all you need. Never mind the ‘Don’t pass on a solid line around a corner when you can’t see what’s coming rule’…There’s always the rutted shoulder if need be. And the ‘Leave- a-cars-length-in-case-of-sudden-stopping’ must not have been part of their driver’s Ed training.

‘They know what they’re doing’ I thought.

We had left the ‘Efata’ orphanage & school for the deaf early that morning and had been driving for hours along the coast. Sandy, dusty hills surrounded us, and my 8 year old friend Camila and I were singing,  practicing ‘O Canada’ in sign language,  and passing the time by watching the beautiful sunset splash across the water and soften the dusty hills.  We paused in our singing and I posed a question to her.  ‘Hey Camelia, why does the light stay even when the sun is already set? ‘

‘Cuz it’s Jesus that has the light! His light never goes off!’ she exclaimed. And she continued, ‘….and his Church is ALWAYS open.’

And she began to sing…’

‘You are the way the Truth and the Light,

Were living by faith and not by sight.”

‘Mira mira’ oh no! Exclamations of horror at a car rolled into the ditch, people stopped on the side of the road, no ambulance or police…and how would they get there in all the traffic anyways?

‘There was a man holding his hand, and trying to get him out’ I heard the little voice of my  8 year old friend Camila . She had seen it too.  Oh so sad. And nothing we could do to help.

My heart sank and my stomach rolled. ONE split second was all it would take.

Fear began to grip my heart, and I just wanted to be safely back at the complex, or better still back home where the paramedics were minutes away and people usually  followed the respectful cars- length- away-from your bumper, and no-passing-on-a-double-line-around-a-corner sort of rules.

But even there…accidents happen. The truth is, I’m not safe. I’m vulnerable. And sometimes that truth fills me with fear.

I heard a little voice beside me.  ‘But even when I walk in the  Valley of the shadow of death, I don’t fear, because your rod and staff are with me….’

Even when. In the Valleys, in the Shadows, You are with me. 

She couldn’t have known how much I need to hear that. But Someone else did.

‘I thought of that because we were in a valley…’ she said.

Even in the valleys. Even when we can’t see clearly, and we have to walk by faith. Even there…He is with us.

Just like the young mom I saw holding her sleeping baby on the bus ride through Manchay, through the town called ‘Fear’ in Quechua. She held him close, covered warmly in a yellow sleeper and hat…and he slept, oblivious to the chaos of the traffic, the jolting of the bus. The poverty of the hills around him…the unknowns of his future.

His Presence, His Love,  loosens the grip of fear on my heart…calling me to Rest. To just let go…and be held.